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TEDxPSU Full Speaker List Released

In just over a month, the TEDxPSU main event will take place in the Schwab Auditorium. General admission tickets to the main event on March 17, 2013 have been sold out, however there is an opportunity to register to attend a simulcast viewing in the HUB of the entire day’s production.

TEDxPSU has released speaker names in groups over the past several weeks. Below is the complete list of diverse speakers from a variety of geographical and subject areas who will be speaking at the conference. Text via the TEDxPSU website.

Dan Thurmon (@DanThurmon) — “Off Balance on Purpose: The Future of Engagement and Work-Life Balance”

Dan Thurmon is the author of two books, a renowned speaker, and a recognized expert in delivering peak performances — on stage and in the workplace. As president of Motivation Works, Inc., he has worked with hundreds of clients and delivered thousands of presentations worldwide.

Dan helps organizations and individuals implement actions plans and move confidently through transitions. He began his performance career at eleven years old, crafting a one-man-show incorporating comedy, juggling and acrobatics. This enabled him to, at a very early age, develop a strong work ethic and learn fundamental lessons about performance excellence. Dan Thurmon delivers experiences that go beyond motivation, teaching concepts and skills in a highly engaging and entertaining manner. He incorporates his lifelong performance skills to create high impact events.

His programs have educated and uplifted Fortune 500 companies, young audiences, and even the troops on the front lines of Afghanistan and Iraq. Dan’s philosophy can be summarized by the title of his book, “Off Balance On Purpose.” He believes that we will never achieve “perfect balance” and should, instead, learn to embrace uncertainty and initiate positive changes that lead to growth.

Danny Kim (@LitMotors) — “Hacking the Automotive Industry”

Daniel K. Kim is the founder and chief executive officers of Lit Motors, a start-up electric motorcycle company based in San Francisco. His eight years of research in vehicle architecture and ecology has resulted in 13 utility patents. His eclectic background represents the intersection of business, engineering, and design. At the age of 23, he completely redesigned, engineered, and built two bio-diesel Land Rover SUVs, more than doubling their efficiency from 15 to 31 mpg.

He worked at the Boston-based start-up Local Motors, consulted in Vehicle Architecture for MIT’s Vehicle Design Summit, collaboratively strategized on a ride-share company Goloco, was a research assistant for Squid Labs/Makani Power, and was the project leader for the development of an inductive charging station at MIT Media Lab’s Smart Cities.

A native of the Portland, Oregon area, Kim studied Physics and Biology at Reed College, Architecture at UC Berkeley, and finished at the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in Industrial Design and Sustainable Transportation. He is currently building a full-scale proof-of-concept prototype of a two-wheeled, fully-enclosed, gyroscopically-stabilized vehicle with his engineering design team at Lit Motors’ SOMA vehicle laboratory.

Debbie Sterling — “Inspiring the next generation of female engineers”

Debbie Sterling is an engineer and founder of GoldieBlox, a toy company out to inspire the next generation of female engineers. She has made it her mission in life to tackle the gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and math.

GoldieBlox is a book series+construction set that engages kids to build through the story of Goldie, the girl inventor who solves problems by building simple machines. Debbie writes and illustrates Goldie’s stories, taking inspiration from her grandmother, one of the first female cartoonists and creator of “Mr. Magoo.” Her company, launched in 2012, raised over $285,000 in 30 days through Kickstarter, and has been featured in numerous publications such as The Atlantic and Forbes.

Prior to founding GoldieBlox, Debbie served as the Marketing Director of Lori Bonn, a national jewelry company. For the past seven years, she has also served as a brand strategy consultant for a wide variety of organizations including Microsoft, T-Mobile, Organic Valley, and the New York Knicks.

Debbie’s inspiration to create a mission-driven company came in 2008, when she spent six months volunteering at a grassroots nonprofit in rural India. She created a viral fundraising campaign called “I Want a Goat,” raising over $30,000 for economic and educational development in the region. This experience helped pave the way to finding her true passion: inspiring the next generation of female engineers.

Debbie completed her degree in engineering at Stanford (Product Design, ’05) and currently lives with her husband in San Francisco.

Michael Paul (@LunarLionPSU) — “Penn State’s Mission to the Moon”

Michael Paul is a space systems engineer with experience on systems flown to the innermost planet, Mercury, to Earth orbit, and out to the farther reaches of our solar system. Michael is the leader of Penn State’s Google Lunar X Prize team, the Lunar Lion, directing Penn State’s first mission to another body in our solar system. Michael is leading the PSU Applied Research Laboratory’s efforts in developing a space mission leadership capability in the emerging private space exploration industry.

Terry Engelder — “The Fracking Debate”

Terry Engelder, a leading authority on the recent Marcellus gas shale play, holds degrees from Penn State B.S. (’68), Yale M.S. (’72), and Texas A&M, Ph.D. (‘73). He is currently a Professor of Geosciences at Penn State and has previously served on the staffs of the US Geological Survey, Texaco, and Columbia University.

He has written 160 research papers, many focused on Appalachia, and a book, the research monograph “Stress Regimes in the Lithosphere.” His research focus for the past 35 years has been the interaction between earth stress and rock fracture. His work on gas shales first caught industry attention in the late 1970s and industry has engaged him ever since in learning how to recover gas from black shale. In the international arena, he has worked on exploration and production problems with companies including Saudi Aramco, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Agip, and Petrobras. In 2011 he was named to the Foreign Policy Magazine’s list of Top 100 Global Thinkers for drawing international attention to the value of gas shale as an energy source.

Chad Littlefield (@chadlittlefield) — “Positive Social Risks!”

Chad is a senior in Rehabilitation & Human Services and Psychology. His passion for people is alive and contagious. This was evidenced on Penn State’s main campus when, as a freshman, Chad founded the Clown Nose Club. The Clown Nose Club (completely unrelated to actual clowns) is known for taking themselves a bit less seriously in order to gain rapport with people in hopes of initiating positive interaction. Their mission, in short, is to challenge themselves and others to take “positive social risks” — a term which Chad coined.

He also works as a facilitator for the World in Conversation and does research on social anxiety with the Center for Collegiate Mental Health. Chad plans to take his zeal and experiences into the Learning, Design, and Technology master’s program at Penn State to study collaborative learning. His dream of “one day” working full-time to foster meaningful human connection is currently underway, as Chad is in the process of establishing his own collaboration consulting firm called “We!”

Dannah Gresh (@dannahgresh) — “Great Sex for 8,360 Virgins”

Dannah Gresh is a sexuality educator and best-selling author of several faith-based books on the subject. She has long been at the forefront of a movement to encourage healthy sexual choices and is often called upon to use social science and medical research to defend a conservative position on relationships in news media like USA Today,,, Chicago Tribune, and Women’s Wear Daily.

As a resident of the hometown of Penn State, Gresh coaches college students seeking to define their sexual and relationship theology. She has found that students who feel most discriminated against for their sexual choices are those who choose to reserve sex for one mutually monogamous lifetime partnership. In other words, they’re virgins. (Gasp!) Her recent calculations found that there may be as many as 8,360 virgins on campus, but they tend to conceal it. Could it be that the banner of tolerance does not include them? She has a passion to change that and to communicate that people who have sex with only one person are not only really smart, but they can have great sex!

Lee Ann De Reus (@LADeReus @panziusa) — “Daring to Make a Difference for DR Congo”

Lee Ann De Reus is an Associate Professor of Human Development & Family Studies and Women Studies at Pennsylvania State University-Altoona and the co-founder of Panzi Foundation USA. As a scholar activist, she travels regularly to Panzi Hospital in eastern DR Congo to conduct research, develop programs for rape survivors, and inform her advocacy work in the U.S. In Rwanda she conducts a PSU service project with vulnerable children and widows from the 1994 genocide.

Dr. De Reus is a 2009 Carl Wilkens Fellow and the recipient of numerous awards from Penn State University including the prestigious George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Spirit of Internationalization Award given in honor of her commitment to global service and outreach. She is the co-founder/director of several non-profits and groups including Panzi Hospital Foundation USA ( in support of Panzi Hospital, Beza Kids in support of Rwandan children and widows (, and The Genocide Relief Project, a local community-based anti-genocide advocacy, education and aid organization. Dr. De Reus is a featured activist in John Prendergast’s book, “The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa’s Worst Human Rights Crimes,” and a frequent guest speaker about the crisis for women in the DR Congo and global activism.

Dan Kariv — “Take the Journey”

Getting the most out of your life and out of your business will often come down to how well you can optimize both. And according to Dan Kariv, the key to optimizing your life, career, and any pursuit is to know where to put your focus. The owner of a surprisingly successful 7-figure business is equally surprising in his penetrating wisdom that some would say he has no right to have at his young age. Dan has spent more than eight years streamlining and optimizing business systems and marketing funnels for his clients, as well as for his own successful projects. He consistently and rapidly achieves steep growth every time by creating automated systems that organize all available data into meaningful and actionable guidance: for where to focus and what to do next. But he doesn’t stop there. Not nearly.

Living an abundant and adventurous life that has delivered him much in his brief 27 years, Dan knows that the keys to a rewarding life are not so different from his professional skill-set. It still comes down to knowing what to focus on, and what to do next — and how you determine that focus. And the secrets to this, he reveals in his insightful talk that will take you through a journey of Israeli street fighting, the hidden value of calculators in the hands of 10th graders, and the importance of a little thing called unbridled passion. Take the journey. Dan has, and he can point you down the path.

Marcus Shaffer — “Tectonic Machines”

Marcus Shaffer is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture at Penn State’s Stuckeman School. His research focuses on architectural works, theories, and practices that engage the Machine as an extension of our impulse to examine and re-make the natural world. The conceptual basis for the Machine in Marcus’s work is that it is an extension of our physicality, ritual practices, and culture; a record of our technological and material capabilities; and an indicator of our spiritual desiring.

His work explores the Machine in an architectural context – including building-making machines, automatons, and spiritual mechanisms designed by the ancients; the mechano-pagan influence of the Machine on Modern and Visionary Architecture; and developments in the techno-embodiment of architectural processes. In a practical extension of his historical/theoretical search, Marcus is currently designing and fabricating a digi-mechanical formwork to be used for constructing emergency urbanism in environments of population displacement.

His Tectonic Machines, developed as proxy constructors for displaced people who cannot build for themselves, represent architectural agency capable of extending commodity, firmness, and delight beyond the limitations of conventional office-bound practice. Successful instrumentation of these machines would allow architects to cooperatively design, record, and transmit building (action) and buildings (culture) to populations in desperate need of the physical, cultural, and economic benefits of architecture. Marcus holds a BFA in Industrial Design from the Rhode Island School of Design, and a MArch from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Prior to his Masters studies, he worked as a designer of exhibitions and museums.

Nichola Gutgold (@Talkdoc1) — “It Will Take Imagination Not Image to Elect the First Woman President”

Nichola D. Gutgold is associate professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State Lehigh Valley.

She enjoys writing about the communication of women in male dominated fields and has written several books: “The Rhetoric of Supreme Court Women: From Obstacles to Options” (2012); “Almost Madam President: Why Hillary Clinton ‘won’ in 2008” (2009); “Seen and Heard: The Women of Television News” (2008); and “Paving the Way for Madam President” (2006). With Molly Wertheimer she co-authored “Elizabeth Hanford Dole: Speaking from the Heart” (2004). With Ted Sheckels and Diana Carlin she co-authored “Gender and the American Presidency: Nine Presidential Women and the Barriers They Faced” (2012).

A multiple recipient of the Penn State LV: Teaching Excellence Award, she also won the Research Achievement Award, Advising Excellence Award, and Student Appreciation Award. She won the Pennsylvania Communication Association’s Donald Ecroyd Research and Scholarship Award and was named Morning Call’s “Choice Voice” Award for her blog, “TalkDoc.”

A visiting scholar at California State University-Chico, she has led Penn State students through China and European Field Courses. She is frequently quoted in both the national and international press.

She graduated with honors at age 20 with majors in communications and English from King’s College, a master’s degree from Bloomsburg University, and a Ph.D. in speech communication from Pennsylvania State University. She is married to Geoff Gutgold and they are parents of Ian, a junior at Oberlin College and Emi who will be a freshman at Penn State University Park.

Lonnie Graham — “Art as Tradition in Modern Culture”

Lonnie Graham, a Pew Fellow and Associate Professor at Pennsylvania State University is formerly director of Photography at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There, Graham developed innovative pilot projects merging Arts and Academics, which were ultimately cited by First Lady Hillary Clinton as a National Model for Arts Education.

In 1996 Graham was commissioned to create the “African/American Garden Project,” which provided a physical and cultural exchange of urban single mothers in Pittsburgh, and farmers from Muguga, Kenya, to build a series of urban subsistence gardens.

In 2005, Professor Graham was cited as Artist of the Year in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and presented the Governor’s Award by Governor Edward Rendell. Professor Graham served as a panel member for the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, DC.

He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts/Pew Charitable Trust Travel Grant for travel to Ghana and is a four-time Pennsylvania Council for the Arts Fellowship recipient. Graham was also awarded the Creative Achievement Award by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

The catalogue accompanying the exhibition “A Conversation with the World,” has been widely distributed by Light Work in Syracuse, New York. The Queens Museum in New York commissioned Graham to produce another international garden project as part of “Down the Garden Path” presented in 2005.

Graham has exhibited at Goethe Institute, Accra Ghana; a full scale reproduction of one of the educational galleries in the Barnes Foundation was shown at La Maison de Etat-Unis, Paris, France, the Toyota City Museum in Aichi, Japan as well as a room-sized installation at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Graham’s work is collected by the Addison Gallery for American Art in Andover, MA and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, PA

Herbert Reininger (@herbert68) — “Water is One”

As the world becomes ever more interconnected, the ways we relate and learn and share are changing. Since the first TED talks were made available for free, they have intrigued Herbert Reininger. He wondered: “Can TED be a relevant tool for relating, learning, and sharing at Penn State?

Shortly after Herbert started working at Penn State University as a creative director, he and a small team invited colleagues from his office to watch TED talks over lunch. (They supplied pizza and soft drinks.) He served as moderator, presented the theme, introduced the talk, and facilitated the follow-up conversation. When Herbert saw a small poster in early 2010 calling for volunteers to help organize a first TEDx event at Penn State, he was excited to get involved in TEDxPSU. Admittedly, he didn’t fully know what he was doing at first, but the team managed to generate tremendous excitement around campus and to organize a memorable first event that generated considerable buzz. More than a thousand people showed up and several of the talks from this event are now featured on Since then, Herbert helped organize other TEDx events at Penn State, each experience enriching his personal and collective involvement in the TED phenomenon. Opportunities emerged to participate in the TEDxSummit 2012 in Doha, Qatar, and recently in a groundbreaking TEDx event, TEDxJNJ, in the corporate world of Johnson & Johnson. TEDActive 2013 proved to be yet another culminating TED experience, meeting hundreds of fellow TEDx organizers, TED Fellows, and TED Celebrities, while enjoying the incredible energy of thousands of attendees at TED 2013 in Long Beach, California.

Jo Tyler (@jotyler1) — “Beauty and Danger: When Leaders Should Not Tell Stories”

Jo Tyler is an educator, storyteller, organizational consultant, and mosaic artist. When she discovered there were no jobs for high school English teachers in 1982, she got an MS in Technical Writing and went to work for Hewlett-Packard. She learned how an organization can look, feel, and smell when it’s functioning well. For the next 20 years she worked in organizations that were NOT functioning well, helping them claim or reclaim that look, feel, and smell. She moved up in companies like Otis Elevator and Armstrong until she reached the level of vice president where politics are rich and trust is poor. She realized that her truest allies were stories. Moving through the world listening to them, connecting them, and telling them, she fell in love with stories.

Jo knew that stories were the foundation for her success, but she didn’t know how or why. So, she went to Columbia University to research applied storytelling in organizations. At Penn State she has expanded this exploration to deepen our understanding of the dynamics of stories, telling, and listening in organizations of all sorts. She has also begun to study how visual arts pair with storytelling to foster learning and create novelty. She is deeply interested in the ways we can foster spaces where authentic stories can emerge, where the telling of stories is fearless, and where the listening is expansive. This is the type of work Jo hopes to pursue until her time runs out. She can be reached at [email protected].

Eric Charles (@EPCharles) — “To Get a Third Party on the Debate Stage and Other Reasons You Should Lie to Pollsters”

Eric is an assistant professor of psychology with many publications presenting novel research in psychology, and exploring the history and theory of psychology. He has also done medieval and renaissance reenactment, including working from historic manuscripts to rediscover the principles of Italian, German, and Spanish sword work.

He has also been known to frequent pirate shanties, dress in steampunk garb, support his campus’s skeptics and gaming organizations, and teach his two young daughters gymnastics and martial arts; though not all at the same time. None of that has anything to do with his presentation. You see, like most Americans, he would desperately like to see third party emerge in our political arena, one that would promote values closer to his own. Personally, he is a dedicated proponent of “the American experiment” as embodied in John Dewey’s writings about democracy, which render him a Democrat-leaning Libertarian. But he would be pretty happy to see any meaningfully distinct third party emerge.

We all know that the major parties have designed the system to make the emergence of a new party very difficult. What is less apparent is that the current rules create a schizophrenic situation in which the most obvious ways to try to get a candidate elected are not the most obvious ways to overcome the artificial political hurdles. In fact, if we stop trying to get people to vote for a third-party candidate and just focus on the fact that most citizens want to see a third party in the fray, some interesting solutions to our political dilemmas arise.

Michael Pilato — “Connecting Communities of the World Through Art”

Michael Pilato is an international artist fostering community and business relationships through murals. He is known in the Penn State community for his many beautiful additions to the walls of downtown State College. Michael also stars in the documentary “Inspiration Lycoming,” which tells the story of his life. The mural featured in the documentary reflects the personalities of more than 350 individuals of the Lycoming County’s history and will be one of the ten largest portraiture murals in the world.

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About the Author

Dave Cole

Dave graduated from Penn State in 2013. He was the Managing Editor of this website. Dave remains a proud Onward State alumnus to this day.

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